Exhaustion Is Not In My Job Description: The Thin Line Between Self-Care And Insubordination
I’m hesitant to say that the past ten years of my life in which I’ve been working professionally since college have been a climb up the career ladder. Before my graduation gown was able to get a crease in it, I entered the job market seeking entry level positions in public health sector during the recession which peaked in 2008. I landed a job in which I was promoted each year before getting laid off, and in my thirties I find myself back to straddling the lower rungs of the ladder and realizing the “climb” has been more like an anxiety-riddled roller coaster filled with thoughts of failure and incompetence. But although my paycheck and position may not be at the level I feel they should, my standards are pretty much right on schedule. As you get older gaining life experience, confidence and rapidly start losing a whole lot of f**ks to give you recognize what you refuse to put up with for a paycheck. Those hours off the clock you spent with your phone glued to your palm so you wouldn’t miss a request from your manager gradually get replaced with a “New phone. Who dis?” auto-reply for anything work-related after five.
Don’t get me wrong, at times you have to go above and beyond to get ahead in the working world. You’ll code switch more than an annoying Facebook update, do three jobs while getting paid for one and get a chapped lip or two from kissing someone’s behind with the hope that the ego boost might result in a boost to your take-home pay. But something happened to me a few years ago in addition to just turning 30. I got married and became a new mom all in the same year. I recognized the version of me that was doing the most to get ahead in the 9-5 hustle was officially unable to as I recognized I only had so much attention-span, energy and waking hours to spread between maintaining a household, raising a child and sitting in yet another meeting that could’ve been an e-mail. As a result I leveled up and learned the almighty power of the word “No” when it comes to the 9-5 hustle.
It’s something I’ve told my friends and family in the past few years: “My ‘Nah, I’m good, love.’ game is too strong.” We’ve all come across a quote that reads something like, “These jobs will have you working to damn death only to fill your spot not even a week after your funeral.” So just this past week, I was reminded that my sanity, peace of mind and balance are more important that any employee evaluation score will ever be. It was a situation where a manager who had the attitude that many do who have feel that once they “make it” they want no parts of grunt labor ever again, regardless of if they have enough staff to fulfill duties or not. Although I had agreed to occasional weekend work, it was expected of me to sacrifice all my Saturdays and holiday time for the remainder of the year while a manager spent that time elbows deep in Hallmark movies and sweet potato pie. Meanwhile my ass will be in bed by 8:00 pm Thanksgiving night so I can be functional for work the next day. Don’t get me wrong, I get that there are perks to being in power but I’m also reminded about the type of leadership I’ve respected the most. It’s always involved managers who empowered their staff by example. They didn’t expect employees to do as they said and not as they did. They offered guidance, while still instilling the confidence in their staff to take initiative and find their own way. Most importantly they were understanding that their staff consisted of more than Project Managers, Administrative Assistants and Bookkeepers. That staff also included mothers, budding artists, sons and pet owners whose lives shouldn’t be dedicated solely to the missions off their employers. In addition, those managers were supportive of their employees’ additional responsibilities within reason even if they inconvenienced their own comfort at times. I even had a manager once who made sure I was able to get a paycheck throughout college even though he wasn’t even turning a profit.
With all that said, I came to an epiphany: Stop having these jobs think you can’t refuse or that you’re not allowed to question that which is being assigned to you. You don’t have to get confrontational, give your boss the finger or completely ignore their request but there is a way to prioritize your self-care and peace of mind respectfully. Most importantly, managers need to repeatedly remind themselves of one thing: “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” It doesn’t mean that managers have to go around sacrificing the work getting done to keep up morale, but a key to keeping good employees is staying open minded to the idea that an employee who is afforded life/work balance and whose physical, mental and emotional health is supported is more likely to do a decent job and more likely remained committed to their employer. It’s like I always say, employees know when you don’t give a damn about their progress beyond their productivity for your agenda.
Admittedly before, I declined to sacrifice my weekend and holidays for the remainder of the year, I had to ask myself was I guilty of being insubordinate. It was then my husband hit me with some common sense, “If insubordination is solely refusing to do what your manager has requested than probably. But a label of insubordination is completely worth if it allows you to maintain your mental health.”
Exhaustion isn’t in my job description. At this point in my life I get a great night’s sleep knowing I was the best employee I could be in the span of eight hours. I take initiative, make all attempts to be a team player and don’t bitch and moan over compensation for the fifteen minutes I came in early or the ten minutes I stayed late. Climbing the career ladder isn’t always about the zeros on your check or the commas in your title. It’s about gaining the confidence in what you bring to the table as a professional, speaking up for what’s fair and calling out everything that doesn’t make any damn sense. Most importantly, it’s very much about getting your, “Nah, I’m good love,” game on point. Life is short and you need to reserve the damns for all the things in your life that matter, and not just what’s on your resume.
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.